Anita O'Day (born October 18, 1919) is a American jazz singer. O'Day is much admired for her sense of rhythm and dynamics, and her early big band appearances shattered the traditional image of a demure female vocalist by swinging just as hard as the other musicians on the bandstand.
O'Day was born Anita Belle Colton in Chicago. O'Day got her start as a singer in her teens. In the late 1930s, began singing in a jazz club called the Off-Beat, a popular hangout for musicians such as band leader and drummer Gene Krupa. In 1941, she joined Krupa's band, and a few weeks later Krupa hired trumpeter Roy Eldridge. O'Day and Eldridge had great chemistry on stage and their duet "Let Me Off Uptown" became a huge hit, boosting the popularity of the Krupa band. Also that year, Down Beat named O'Day "New Star of the Year" and, in 1942, she was selected as one of the top five big band singers.
After her stint with, Krupa , O'Day joined Woody Herman's band. She left the band after a year and returned to Krupa. Later, O'Day joined Stan Kenton's band with whom she cut an album that featured the hit "And Her Tears Flowed Like Wine".
In the late 1940s, O'Day struck out on her own. She teamed up with drummer John Poole, with whom she played for the next thirty years. Her album "Anita", which she recorded for the newly established Verve Records (it was the label's first LP), boosted her popularity to new heights, and she went on to record some twenty albums for Verve through the 1960s. O'Day also began performing in festivals and concerts with such musicians as Louis Armstrong, Oscar Peterson, Dinah Washington, George Shearing and Thelonious Monk. She appeared in the documentary filmed at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1958 called Jazz on a Summer Day, which made her an international star.
Throughout the 1960s, O'Day continued to tour and record while addicted to heroin. In 1969, she nearly died from an overdose. After taking several years off to kick her alcohol and drug addictions, she made a comeback at the 1970 Berlin Jazz Festival and resumed making live and studio albums, many recorded in Japan, some of which were released on her own label, Emily Records.
In 1981. O'Day published a memoir, High Times, Hard Times in which she spoke candidly about her drug addiction.